Patterns In Nature Are Networks
"It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us."

-- From the conclusion of Darwin's Origin of Species

Good News !!

You are viewing a draft of the book entitled "Patterns – The Art, Soul, and Science of Beholding Nature". The final version of this book has now being published as an Amazon Kindle eBook.

There are some significant changes in the eBook that are not in this draft. You may purchase the eBook here

Some of the ideas in the eBook are contained in posts at my Patterns In Nature Blog. You are encouraged to visit this blog site. If you press the "Like" button shown below, your Facebook page will provide you with short notifications and summaries of new blog posts as they become available.

As complex systems, patterns in nature are manifested through self organizing emergent behavior -- the result of individual internal elements responding to local influences according to a fixed set of rules.  These individual behaviors become useful emergent properties only when they are somehow communicated to the whole. This communication between individuals in a system is vital to the success of emergent behavior because, through network connectivity, adjoining patterns can interact with each other. That connectivity is commonly called a "network". Because patterns are complex systems, a network is often called a "complex network".

These complex networks are composed of both a physical architecture (form) and associated dynamic processes (function) that control and connect the pattern components within the system. A complex network's form and function operate and interrelate within the context of a surrounding environment.

To name a few, we see complex networks of interdependencies in mamalian lungs, in the metabolic processes inside a tiny cell, in networks of friends and acquaintances in a society, in food chains, in beehives, fish schools, ant colonies, and in the ecological networks that hold our ecosystems together.

What do these networks look like? How do they operate? What are their key characteristics? Questions like these have led scientists and mathematicians to draw models of the network connections and to study how these seemingly complex connections behave. These multi-disciplinary studies are commonly called "network theory". The result of these efforts is a collection of basic ideas that describe the real-world characteristics of networks of patterns in nature.

A network model representing a system of nature's patterns can be studied both from a structural (or architectural) perspective as well as an examination of dynamic processes. A network diagram offers a schematic of the complex system under study. Typically, these diagrams are simple representations of complicated phenomena.

The diagram above portrays a dynamic pattern of interrelationships between creatures in the Southern Ocean. It is a picture of a food chain that describes who eats who. The nodes are the organisms and the links both represent the relationships and offer insights into the dynamics of the food chain. One can see that krill is a keystone species because most other organisms depend on it as a food source. From the diagram, it is easy to conclude that a reduction in the supply of krill might adversely affect the entire ecosystem.

Many of the organizational principles of networks, such as small-world phenomena and the dominance of scale-free distributions, have been firmly established and accepted by the field. Ideas about networks and their visualization have become widely known because of research and writings by Barabasi, Strogatz, and Watts. Philip Ball provides an excellent summary of network concepts in his book.

Currently, the network studies are directed at understanding the functional importance of these organizational principles and how these principles have emerged and shaped the evolution of nature's patterns.

Networks are typically classified by their structural and their behavioral characteristics. We continue this discussion by offering pages on network architecture and the dynamics within networks.

Useful References


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